The Norwegian Parliament finally approved a long-awaited law making women subject to compulsory military service, just like men have been for decades. Defense Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide hoped for a rush of new female recruits, and looked forward to inform NATO that the law was passed.
“This is an historic measure,” Soreide declared in Parliament Tuesday. “Internationally Norway has taken a groundbreaking step. We have all reason to be proud of that.”
Qualified women who earlier have been called in to military service have been able to turn it down. Now they won’t be able to do so. Random interviews with young women on the streets of Oslo Tuesday indicated they think that’s just fine, and that women shouldn’t have any special privileges to avoid military service because of their gender.
“It’s fair,” one told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK), while another claimed it was fine with her as well. Søreide thinks the new law will lead to a “better blend” of men and women in the Norwegian armed forces.
Recruiting the ‘best and brightest’
It will also make it easier for military officials to choose among those most motivated and best-suited for service in a military that has been slimmed down yet made much more specialized and professional in recent years. The Norwegian military claims to be seeking the “best and brightest” for service, not least for special operations abroad.
The military also has moved away from desired quotas of women in the armed forces. Earlier they wanted at least 15 to 20 percent of all military personnel to be women “but we never reached that goal,” Søreide told news bureau NTB. “We have chosen to ‘think new’ around this and concentrate on what can make a woman choose a military career herself. Doing something meaningful is most important, both for women and men.”
Small percentage actually serve
Only a small percentage of all young Norwegians are actually called up for service and then serve. Today around 7,000 men and 1,000 women are taking part in first-year military training, while around 60,000 were eligible. The vast majority of men and women who turn up when called end up being turned down, because they’re overweight, out of shape, fail various tests or simply aren’t needed.
Given the level of conflicts at present involving Russia, Ukraine, Syria, the Middle East and several countries in Africa, the need for qualified military personnel is growing. With more women now required to serve, Søreide hopes Norway’s military staffing will rise. The government has proposed boosting funding for the military once again in its state budget proposal presented last week.